You know when you go on vacation to a really great place, like a really great place, where Instagram or Facebook can’t do it justice. And how you swear the sun sets differently and the stars sparkle in an unlike way and even the morning sun, you ponder, looks altered when it rises. Well, I’m hardly up for a sunrise, but you get my drift. The place that makes you pause and go, “Whoa.”
As I’m writing this, my teenage son and I are staying in a calming, beautifully renovated 1970s ranch style Airbnb in Joshua Tree, CA. The home sits high on a mountain vista against the north side of the Joshua Tree National Park where two different deserts come together, the Mojave and Colorado. Just like my teenage son and me: different.
Tonight, from the comfortable outdoor patio, the panoramic majestic views and sunset make me pause and think, “Wow, I could live here.” Until, my teenage son interrupts my lavish thoughts with, “Mom, this is soooooo boring out here. When do we go home?” “Son, we just got here.” He mumbles something and goes inside to the converted garage game room. Yes, this Airbnb has a game room: Pool table and TV for his PS4. So, please…stop the complaining, son. But, see, he’s just graduated 8th grade, and his head is figuratively back in L.A. with his friends who will be off to different high schools in the fall, and it’s hitting him hard he’s not hanging with them now. He’s known these guys for nine years. Basically, most his life so I can’t deny his feelings of loss and fear even though I am aware he’ll recover.
See, I thought, before he embarks into a tight summer schedule of high school sports and academic camps, I’d take him away for a 3-night mini vacay. I’ll get him out of the intensity of Los Angeles, so we can experience some down time, play tourist, get to know each other again: outside of yelling and scrambling to make school deadlines, and maybe (hopefully?) sleep. But before I hit I-10 East out of L.A. he’s asking:
1) Did you pack my PS4?
2) Is there WIFI?
3) What about my friends?
4) Is there a pool?
5) Did you bring my soccer ball?
6) When do we come back?
The reality is, I can’t deny the teenager brain, albeit annoying. I try as any parent to correct and teach him, but until he grows through this period, I acknowledge the obvious: he encompasses all the narcissistic and demanding emotions only a teenager is capable of. Well, sometimes, he can be compassionate, engaging, wise, endearing and incredibly loving. A glimpse at the young man he’s becoming. But until that time, EVERYTHING is boring (except his friends, PS4, and soccer). Right now, he has major FOMO, and I have ICGAS. Okay, I’ll spare you googling if you don’t know: FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. ICGAS: I Can’t Give A Shit. But, I do give a wee bit of a shit ‘cause to him, his requests are very, very important. So, I found this swank house that takes care of his number 1-3 concerns. Am I an indulgent parent? ICGAS, I need this vacay too!
As for number 5 – it’s too damn hot out, and for number 4, there is no pool, but there is a very nice outdoor Jacuzzi and our first night we took a dip and challenged each other to who could stand up from the water in the cool desert wind the longest. He won. We also had a competitive game of Pool. I won. We also saved a desert mouse from entrapment behind a window screen. We’ve seen lizards, snakes, and many wild rabbits and even examined rabbit droppings during a mini-hike. So, we are bonding over challenges, desert creatures, and rabbit shit. It’s not all PS4 and me staring at sunsets. But, getting back to that sunset. Tonight is an orange, red warmth peeking through the western mountain range of Juniper and Joshua trees and I sit stunned by the beauty. Alone, yes. My son inside engaged in a PS4 battle but that’s okay, I need this sunset more than he does. He can’t “see” it yet anyway.
I look around at the other houses in the distance, but I see no one outside. Are other people looking at this sky? This sunset is spectacular! I assume they’ve stopped what they’re doing to look at this, right? Like, every night? But, maybe this is normal to them, this type of sunset? This is their everyday beauty, and they’re used to it? Maybe they don’t notice anymore?
I see this sunset because it’s new to me, so I’m soaking in every detail. But, when we (collectively including myself) become used to our everyday beauty, maybe we don’t notice anymore? Whether it’s sunsets, quiet rides home from school, or panicked trips TO school, or just the pure beauty of those loved ones in our everyday lives. It’s your partner, your neighbors, your kids, your hobbies, your job, your passions, your whatever. Sometimes we forget the beauty, and we need to step back and go, “Wow, I love living here. In my life.”
So, here I sit on the Airbnb patio, enjoying someone else’s sunset but when I look at the patio doors, I see my sunset in my teenager, having a blast playing PS4 with his friends 150 miles away. He is not at all giving a shit about the outdoor sunset or my awareness of him, and that is okay. Someday he’ll be aware. But for now, he has his sunset, and that’s his buds. For me, I have the knowledge he’s happy, healthy and I’m at the moment in Joshua Tree thinking, “I love living here. In my life.”
Cue: sunset shot.